Star ascidian near Penzance, Cornwall

West Cornwall Adventures

You’re never far from a beach in Cornwall, but the distances from one end of the county to the other mean I visit some beaches more often than others. I made the most of a recent trip ‘out west’ visiting friends to explore the Penzance area.

Although Mount’s Bay itself is a protected area and is best left undisturbed, there are plenty of fabulous rock pools to discover near the town and at nearby Mousehole.

The wealth of colourful seaweeds here makes the clear waters especially enticing. Stepping carefully among them, I found clingfish, shark egg cases and an abundance of stalked jellyfish.

A small species of clingfish hides among the coral weed near Penzance.
A small species of clingfish hides among the coral weed near Penzance.
A Calvadosia cruxmelitensis stalked jellyfish near Penzance. The diverse seaweeds of the Mounts Bay area provide a perfect habitat for a variety of stalked jellyfish species.
A Calvadosia cruxmelitensis stalked jellyfish near Penzance. The diverse seaweeds of the Mounts Bay area provide a perfect habitat for a variety of stalked jellyfish species.

Star ascidians formed a psychedelic wallpaper of turquoise and pastel blue petal patterns along some deep overhangs. Close by, another star ascidian colony painted the rocks in saffron yellow. 

The delicate colours of this star ascidian blew me away. It comes in so many colour morphs, but this one was new to me.
The delicate colours of this star ascidian blew me away. It comes in so many colour morphs, but this one was new to me.

 

More of the wonderful pastel-blue star ascidian, looking like an impressionist flower painting.
More of the wonderful pastel-blue star ascidian, looking like an impressionist flower painting.

Shouts carried across the shallow waters. My friends had found something exciting: a newly-hatched baby catshark. This young greater-spotted catshark, also known as a bull huss or nursehound, had spent many months incubating in an egg case before emerging. When fully grown it could be over one-and-a-half metres, but for now it lay quietly in the tub, taking in the world through half-closed eyes. We returned it quickly to the shelter of the dense seaweed where it would soon be covered by the rising tide.

A cat shark egg case with a young greater-spotted catshark developing inside
Egg case with a young greater-spotted catshark developing inside
Hatchling greater-spotted catshark, which we kept for a minute before returning it safely exactly where it was found.
Hatchling greater-spotted catshark, which we kept for a minute before returning it safely exactly where it was found.

As the days begin to lenthen noticeably I hope this is the first of many forays to new and more distant beaches over the course of the summer. No matter how many times I visit the rock pools, there is always something new.

If you’re looking for some summer reading, my book Rock Pool: Extraordinary Adventures Between the Tides is out on 2nd May with September Publishing and is available at local book shops, Waterstones and through NHBS as well as through online retailers.

Another species of stalked jellyfish - Haliclystus octoradiatus - near Penzance
Another species of stalked jellyfish – Haliclystus octoradiatus – near Penzance
A beautifully marked pheasant shell near Penzance, Cornwall
A beautifully marked pheasant shell near Penzance, Cornwall

11 thoughts on “West Cornwall Adventures”

  1. Hi Heather, thank you for sharing your adventures. That pale star ascidian is stunning! I’m (hopefully) going to Guernsey for a couple of days in June – I’ll let you know what I find…. In the meantime – happy rock pooling

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Charlotte. It’s lovely isn’t it! They’re so variable but it’s always exciting to see one I haven’t come across before. Guernsey sounds amazing. Have a brilliant time and definitely send me pics of your finds! 🙂

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  2. Hannah,

    Just wanted to say congrats on the book. I’ll promote it through my social channels for you. I have a blog called Stoves In Coves and have gathered a following of nearly 23k over the last couple of years. My followers are interested in a slower pace of life, have some connection to Cornwall and LOVE rock pooling. I’m sure they’d love your book. I’ll happily push it out for you as a way or saying thank you for all the help you’ve given me with identifying species over the last couple of years.

    Hails

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Hayley, that would be just wonderful. I don’t think I follow your blog yet – I’ll put that right now! 🙂 I’ve got the first copies of the book through now and I’m completely delighted – it’s looking lovely. I’m sure your readers would enjoy it. And send them my way if they’d like any help with identifying their rock pool finds. (Don’t worry about the autocorrect – it happens all the time and I’m not fussed!) H x

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    1. Thanks so much Scooj! As you know, some days are easier than others out on the shore. Knowing my efforts are appreciated makes all the difference. I know I’m hugely privileged to be able to see all these amazing animals, so it’s a pleasure to have this site to share things through. Heather

      Liked by 1 person

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